Jump to main content.

Synopsis of 2nd Place Gulf Guardian Awards

(To learn more, please request a copy of the full submission - these short summaries do not provide a complete picture of the project)


Project #: HAB 2000-12
Company: Les Hodgson, owner Marco Sales (seafood business), Brownsville TX

Nominated by National Fisheries Institute, Arlington VA

Project Name: Sea Turtle Rescue Project
Category: Individual
Project Type: Habitat

    In 1995, Les Hodgson made a cautious crossover from a Texas businessman to a member of the international conservation community. Les set out to help restore the most endangered sea turtle common to American waters, the Kemp's Ridley sea turtle. Les' endeavor began at Rancho Nuevo, the principal-nesting beach of the turtle and then spearheaded a campaign to build another camp at Tepehuajes, the second largest nesting beach. Few would recognize the importance of the sea turtle to the health of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem. Les is among these few.

    The Kemp's ridley sea turtle is the most endangered of all sea turtles found in U.S. waters. Its population was hard hit by the continual and total harvest of Kemp's Ridley eggs at nesting beaches in Mexico. By 1985, its population reached an all time low, with less than 800 nests counted at its principle-nesting beach at Rancho Nuevo, Mexico. All sources of turtle mortality became critical to the survival of the species and in 1991 Turtle Excluder Devices, TEDs, were introduced into shrimp nets to prevent incidental drowning. As co-owner of a thriving shrimp business in Brownsville, Texas, Les might have chosen to complain about the burden placed on the shrimp industry. Instead, recognizing that the recovery of the Kemp's ridley was essential to health of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem, he set out to help save this endangered species and built a unique partnership that today is frequently cited as a model for the conservation of all endangered species.

    Over the past several years, Les has worked on Rancho Nuevo, a bi-national, public-private sea turtle conservation effort. The activities of the volunteers there included protecting sea turtle nest sites by physical patrol and ensuring hatchling release. Les has personally transported supplies, equipment, personnel and all-terrain vehicles (ATV's) to help the camp operate during the nesting season. His time taken from responsibilities at Marco Sales was given freely to the turtle project. Even more important was his ability to inspire others to become involved in the turtle project.

    As a former president of the National Fisheries Institute (NFI), Les gave countless presentations on the progress of the conservation efforts at Rancho Nuevo. In 1996, at the NFI conference, with the help of zoologist and conservationist Pat Butrchfield, Les presented a strong case for the program and convinced the NFI, as a national seafood trade association, to become involved as a financial sponsor. Each year thereafter, Les traveled to NFI meetings, giving updates on the program on sea turtle nestings and soliciting help for the cause. In times of faltering support from the program's U.S. federal agency partners, he pushed the NFI into action, generating congressional support to continue funding for Rancho Nuevo.

    Throughout his involvement, Les took on more responsibility for maintenance of the ATV's, which are used to patrol over 90 miles of nesting beach daily. Using his own time and resources from his business at Marco Sales, Les restored and repaired the U.S. fleet of ATV's. At the same time, he used every opportunity to approach NFI and his colleagues in the shrimp industry with appeals for new ATV's. Since 1996, he has successfully solicited NFI, the Texas Shrimp Council, and several individual companies for donations. Last year, in response to Les's appeal, six ATV's were donated by the industry at a cost of $4,500 each.

    In 1997, Les began a campaign to build a new camp at Tepehuajes, the second-largest nesting beach north of Rancho Nuevo. He energetically lobbied the NFI Shrimp Council, which donated $30,000. Les purchased building materials and then donated labor from Marco Sales to build the new camp, and also solicited the Mexican industry for funding. Les organized U.S. and Mexican shrimp industry volunteers to participate in workdays with hammer, nail, and paintbrush to finish the new camp.

    By 1999, the hatchlings increased by 89% over four years. It is without a doubt that when we enter into partnerships such as the one Les entered in, with great determination and a good heart, we can actually progress in our recovery efforts of endangered species to ensure a healthy and productive Gulf of Mexico.

Les Hodgson receives award from Bruce Moulton Les Hodgson, owner of Marco Sales, a seafood business in Brownsville, Texas, received a second place Gulf Guardian Award from TNRCC’s Bruce Moulton for his work with the Kemp’s Ridley Turtle Restoration Project. Mr. Hodgson was nominated by the National Fisheries Institute in Arlington, Va.

Last Updated: 19 June 2000

Gulf of Mexico Program Office
Mail Code: EPA/GMPO
Stennis Space Center, MS 39529-6000
FAX: 228-688-2709

Local Navigation

Jump to main content.